Old Plow Display Panorama

Michigan man redefines notion of yard art with a display of old plows

| June 2012

  • Old Plow Display
    “People come from all over to see this,” Elmer Schneider says. “One guy stopped while he was just driving by. He said he thought he was seeing things.” Elmer doesn’t give tours per se; he invites visitors to “help themselves” and roam through the display.
  • Elmer Schneider
    Elmer Schneider has collected and painted around $500,000 worth of yard art over 17 years.
  • John Deere Aircraft
    This unregistered aircraft sports a John Deere motif, but it started life as an International Harvester Co. hay loader.
  • Birdhouses
    More of Elmer’s handiwork. Unaccustomed to inactivity, Elmer once built elaborate birdhouses like those shown here. “I used to work seven days a week making birdhouses,” he says. “I’d sell 1,000 a year.”
  • Old Plow Goes Airborne
    This plow went airborne, accenting a flagpole at Elmer’s farm.
  • Painted Plows
    Elmer painted all of his plows outdoors. “I’d hang ‘em and spray ‘em,” he says. “Spray until it shines.” His personal paint record is five plows in one day. “I started at daybreak, and at the end of the day, I was worn out.”
  • Elmer's Old Plow Display
    Rolling nearly as far as the eye can see, Elmer’s plows are an important chapter in the history of American agriculture.  Elmer painted all of his plows outdoors. “I’d hang ‘em and spray ‘em,” he says. “Spray until it shines.” His personal paint record is five plows in one day. “I started at daybreak,” he recalls, “and at the end of the day, I was worn out.”
  • Creativity with Old Plows
    Elmer’s imagination is limitless when it comes to old iron.
  • Americana: David Bradley
    The David Bradley extra high lift No. 6 gang plow, circa 1927.

  • Old Plow Display
  • Elmer Schneider
  • John Deere Aircraft
  • Birdhouses
  • Old Plow Goes Airborne
  • Painted Plows
  • Elmer's Old Plow Display
  • Creativity with Old Plows
  • Americana: David Bradley

Elmer Schneider’s got it bad. What’s worse, he knows it. But he just can’t stop.

“Several years ago we were doing some landscaping,” he says. “I put an old plow out and some people told me it looked nice.” Reasoning that if a little is good, a lot is better, he continued to add plows to the display on his lawn just outside Chesaning, Mich.: a total of 458 over the next 17 years. “I was supposed to quit,” he says, rolling his eyes toward the farmhouse, “but I just got two more.”

“I think I have one from every brand ever made,” he says. The accuracy of that statement is open to debate but it seems entirely possible. “Some of these plows were made in Michigan,” he says. “A few are pretty rare and some are more than 100 years old. And every one of them has gone through my workshop.”

Colorful collection

Indeed, each plow in the field sports a gleaming coat of paint and spotless shares. Some wheels are clad in accent tones; some wear the same shade as the plow. The palette suggests an amicable consortium of implement dealers: The relics are painted in uniform hues of red, green, orange, yellow, black and white.



When Elmer finds new specimens for his collection, they’re generally in pretty rough shape. “You should see some of the junk that was on those old plows,” he says. “I’ve found them with binder twine on them. They just used whatever they could find to hold them together.”

Wheels — the first part to sink into the ground when the plow is abandoned behind the barn — almost always have to be replaced. Elmer keeps an inventory of parts and has been known to fabricate hard-to-find pieces. “I’d bring in a plow to work on and the boys would say, ‘You’ll never get that fixed.’ Next day they’d come see what I’d done and say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s the same plow?’”